Public servants take an oath to defend the Constitution. To emphasize the seriousness of this vow we place our hands on our hearts. When anyone violates that sacred document it is our duty to speak up.

As one of eight candidates running for Montana’s lone congressional seat, I take the roles and obligations of this body as essential to a well-functioning republic. And right now my heart breaks at the fact that my fellow public servants running for Congress — good people, Democrats and Republicans alike — refuse to acknowledge the gravity of this constitutional crisis.

The president has publicly admitted to abusing the power of his office to influence a foreign leader to open an investigation into his political rival. Ongoing revelations have only increased my concern that the Constitution is being openly flouted. Leveraging our taxpayer dollars to influence a foreign government to meddle in our democratic process, then covering up the evidence, has no precedent in our history. On Thursday, the president threatened potential witnesses to his conduct by evoking capital punishment. These are grave acts and allegations that deserve a full public airing.

I deeply wish this wasn’t the case. Impeachment is a wrenching process for the entire country and should never be taken lightly. But our institutions are only as strong as those willing to enforce them. This moment calls for strength.

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Strength — not just from Democrats, not just from Republicans, but from all Montanans seeking federal office. Montanans are tired of politicians who refuse to answer questions, who refuse to tell it to them straight. The bar is not set high; we are running to replace a congressman that body-slammed a reporter. So, surely my fellow candidates have learned that having the courage to stand up for what is right is the most basic prerequisite for public service. And yet all we hear is silence. We need a change. We don’t need candidates who hide behind party loyalty, or who say nothing at all, or who operate solely on political calculations.

We may not have sworn our oath yet, but it is time for all of Montana’s congressional candidates to call for impeachment proceedings, or say anything — at all – about this crucial moment in our democracy.

Montanans only get one representative to Congress. That representative must defend our Constitution. It’s in the oath.

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State Rep. Tom Winter is a candidate for Montana’s at-large congressional seat.

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